Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

The science on suffering: Husbandry and close confinement (4)

Posted: 17 May 2006

3.2 Ungulates

Ungulate species typically belong to one of two specialised feeding guilds, browsing or grazing, and in the wild they spend a significant percentage of their daily time budget eating. Circuses cannot provide permanent outdoor paddocks for grazing and animals are often confined to indoor stalls or their transporters for much of the time. Moreover ADI observation data has shown that when outdoor paddocks are provided, these can be on concrete or tarmac, when the circus has taken whatever space is available. Sites tend to maximise audience space, rather than make the animals a priority. This severely restricts the ability to carry out natural feeding behaviours in these highly specialised animals.

For example, in the wild, giraffes must use their tongue to remove tree leaves and avoid thorns. The absence of this specific challenge in captivity creates a behavioural vacuum and the resultant frustration can cause oral stereotypic behaviours such as excessive licking, bar biting and tongue playing (Bashaw et al., 2001). The number of hours an animal is housed indoors can be used to predict the occurrence of stereotypic licking behaviours in ungulate species (Bashaw et al., 2001). Frustrated feeding motivation may also result in locomotor stereotypies, such as pacing (Bashaw et al., 2001).

In addition to feeding, indoor enclosures tend to provide less quantity and variety of stimulation than outdoor enclosures, something that is very important for reducing the occurrence of stereotypic behaviours in general (Bashaw et al., 2001).

  • Farmed deer that are housed indoors during winter, exhibit higher levels of aggression, resulting in a greater degree of injury to individuals than deer that are confined outdoors in pasture. They also show an increase in behaviours such as ‘chewing’ each other and their enclosure (Pollard & Littlejohn, 1998).
  • Dama gazelle show more aggression towards their herd mates when housed in smaller enclosures, particularly dominant individuals (Cassinello & Pieters, 2000).
  • A survey of 257 zoo housed giraffe and okapi found that 79.7% of the animals showed at least one form of stereotypy (Bashaw et al., 2001).
  • A study on captive black rhinoceros (Carlstead et al., 1999) found that they are highly sensitive and respond negatively to the environment and/or social conditions of captivity:
  • Captivity influences the behaviour and breeding success of male and female black rhinos differently.
  • Males are affected by limited enclosure area and by how their olfactory environment is altered by husbandry practices such as using a chlorine disinfectant. Female black rhinos are sensitive and react negatively to some aspect of concrete enclosure walls, either the acoustical properties or the visual separation from conspecifics (companions of the same species).
  • A high degree of public accessibility along the perimeter of their enclosures is a potential stressor for both sexes, but especially males. Mortality in captive black rhinos was strongly linked to the percentage of public access along the perimeter of the enclosure.

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